Last week, Californian metal giants Avenged Sevenfold managed to achieve the very rare feat of dropping their already highly anticipated seventh album ‘The Stage’ with only a day’s notice, and based on its sprawling lead single that, this record would be a considerable departure from ‘Hail To The King’’s notable linearity.
Everything that has previously come to define the band is back in force – blistering guitar work, soaring melody and large helpings of Burton-esque atmosphere are all here. However, the band’s progressive chops are also brought to the fore numerous times, with the expansive ‘Sunny Disposition’ boldly incorporating a brass section in a way that only Avenged Sevenfold could execute so cohesively, while Synyster Gates delivers one of his most ambitious solos to date.
‘The Stage’ isn’t short on hooks either. ‘God Damn’ is a breathless thrasher that will no doubt be a new live favourite, and although M Shadows’ voice might not be as durable as it once was, his delivery on ‘Creating God’’s demiurgic chorus makes for another highlight.
One of the band’s greatest attributes on ‘The Stage’ is the inclusion of ex-Bad Religion drummer Brooks Wackerman. Similarities can be drawn to The Rev in terms of the audacious, innovative nature of his playing, but Wackerman manages to infuse each song with enough personality to avoid sounding like an imitation of his adored predecessor.
Perhaps this record’s most obvious weakness is its mammoth 80-minute run time. ‘Fermi Paradox’ is the album’s weakest track, failing to do anything that hasn’t already been done better earlier, while meandering closer ‘Exist’ feels a tad overstuffed. Elsewhere, the production job feels rather flat and cheap at times, and despite falling short of actively hindering the listening experience, it’s the band’s weakest since ‘Waking The Fallen’.
What has most encapsulated ‘The Stage’’s release is how bold the band are willing to be, both artistically and commercially. Avenged Sevenfold have chosen to challenge themselves and their listeners, and while ironically it is far and away the band’s least immediate release, it is more than deserving of the attention required on initial listens.
‘The Stage’ by Avenged Sevenfold is out now on Capitol Records.
Words by Josh Graham (@jollyboyjosh_)